Enclosure maps date from the late 1700s to the mid-1800s
Enclosure example


The Norfolk Historical Map Explorer includes over 100 maps which were created because of Parliamentary enclosure. Enclosure maps date from the late-eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century. They may often provide the earliest detailed survey of a parish.

The original enclosure maps from which the digitized copies were made are held by the Norfolk Record Office, where the original maps can be consulted together with their awards.

Enclosure maps often predate tithe maps by 30 to 40 years and include details of commons and open fields that have disappeared by the time of the tithe map. Enclosure maps lay down the public or private status of roads and paths, responsibilities for maintaining hedges and details of charity land. The income made from this land would then be administered to the poor. Enclosure maps are still a key legal source for this information.

For reasons of consistency the word enclosure has been used throughout this introduction. However when enclosure is referred to in a legal context, for instance in Parliamentary Acts, the term inclosure may be found.

An Introduction to Enclosure Maps

Enclosure is the separation of a piece of land from neighbouring land by putting a hedge or fence around it. Usually the land would either have been part of a larger open field or a piece of the village common. The process of enclosing parts of large fields has been going on for many hundreds of years. It could be done by agreement among the landowners involved. However Parliamentary enclosure meant the whole process was formalized.

If a landowner wanted to enclose land in their parish then they would get a private Act of Parliament. The Act would appoint commissioners who would visit the parish, have it surveyed and hear the claims of those holding land in open fields or having rights of access to the common.

The commissioners would then enclose the open fields. Each landowner would be given one plot of land equal in size to the areas he formally held in separate units.

The commissioners would also divide the common. The amount each individual landowner was given would depend on their total landholdings in the parish and the amount of access they had to the common.

The commissioners' decisions were published in the form of an enclosure award and map. The map shows what is explained in detail in the award.

What Information does an Enclosure Map show?

The enclosure map was drawn up to show what land was affected by the Enclosure Act.

There is no set format for the enclosure maps because each map was drawn up under its own Act of Parliament. Enclosure maps are accurate surveys and can be compared with later maps and aerial photographs. It is usual for the names of landowners to be written on to the map. Names of occupiers are not normally given.

Parliamentary Enclosure Acts often included other changes apart from the enclosure of open or common land. Landowners exchanged areas of land among themselves, usually to group their holdings more closely together. Public roads, bridleways and paths were laid out and distinguished from private ones. Stone, gravel or chalk pits would be allocated. Where a common was being enclosed, a piece would be reserved for the poor to gather fuel, usually called the poors' land or firing land.


The scales used by the surveyors of the inclosure maps vary between 5 chains to 1 inch (39.60 metres to 1 centimetre) and 8 chains to 1 inch (63.36 metres to 1 centimetre). Occasionally smaller or larger scales are found.


The coverage of each map may vary. Most enclosure maps cover the entire parish but a small number, especially the later ones, only cover the areas of common to be enclosed.

Norfolk Historical Map Explorer does not include all the enclosure maps for Norfolk. If there is not an enclosure map on Norfolk Historical Map Explorer for the area in which you are interested, please contact the Norfolk Record Office. They will be able to advise on whether an enclosure map was produced for a particular area.

Find Out More

The Norfolk Historical Map Explorer does not include any Enclosure Acts or Awards. If you want to consult the relevant Act then you should contact the Norfolk Heritage Centre at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library. The Centre contains a full set of Enclosure Acts running from circa 1770 to the end of the nineteenth century. For the Award of a particular Enclosure Map then please contact the Norfolk Record Office.

Obtaining Copies of Tithe and Enclosure Maps

The Norfolk Record Office can provide copies of most enclosure maps and tithe maps as either digital image files or as hard-copy print-outs. To order, contact the Norfolk Record Office at the Archive Centre, Martineau Lane, Norwich NR1 2DQ; tel. 01603 222599; e-mail norfrec@norfolk.gov.uk, quoting the postal address to where the copy should be sent and details of the map you would like copied. If a specific section of a map is required, please provide details. Current prices are available from the Norfolk Record Office website at http://archives.norfolk.gov.uk.